THE PUBLIC are being encouraged to reap the rewards to their health, happiness and wellbeing that can be achieved by visiting a canal or a river, writes Neil Gordon.

With increasing rates of obesity, diabetes, and rising levels of stress, anxiety and other mental health conditions the Canal & River Trust believes waterways are uniquely placed to make a significant contribution to improving the wellbeing of the nation, with millions of people living within easy reach of one of the free-to-use towpaths running alongside its canals and rivers.

This comes as the charity publishes its report ‘Assessing the wellbeing impacts of waterways usage in England and Wales’ that shows that spending time by the waterways can make you happier and improve your life satisfaction.

The associated benefits of visiting a canal or river increase with the length of visit, with research showing higher levels of happiness and lower levels of anxiety for longer trips. Any visit to a waterway is associated with higher levels of life satisfaction.

However, of the eight million people living within a kilometre of a waterway, currently just three in ten ever visit, with vast potential to make a meaningful impact on millions of lives.

Richard Parry, Chief Executive of the Canal & River Trust said: “Our waterways are an amazing historic legacy for us all, and it is exhilarating to find that they can play such an important new role in our lives.

“This research presents clear evidence for what we might all experience – that we can make life better by water.”

The Canal and River Trust cares for more than 2,000 miles of waterway that run through some of the most heavily populated communities in England and Wales providing accessible green and blue space on their doorstep.

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